Tosca

The opera Tosca, written entirely by Giacomo Puccini (except for the libretto help from Luigi Illica, but come on, he can’t have helped that much), is a comedy of epic proportions, centered around the character of Mario Cavaradossi, a bumbling painter who is the subject of numerous pranks at the hands of his girlfriend Floria Tosca and her friend Scarpia, the overly friendly police chief.

The story begins in a church, with an appearance by Angelotti, who in my score is listed as an “underground fighter,” which probably means no WWE appearances, but he may have done some mixed martial arts fighting locally.  Either way, he is definitely a professional wrestler of some sort, and he is here to get the comedy started.  Angelotti has committed some sort of crime, most likely spraypainting a statue of someone naked, and has led the police here to where his friend Mario is painting.  What a great prank!

Meanwhile, Mario is thinking about Floria and getting ribbed by his priest buddy who pokes fun at him by calling him Satan.  Floria arrives and messes with poor Mario’s head by pretending not to believe him every time he says he loves her.  She decides to get him all worked up by saying that she saw another woman with him, which of course is not true.  The trick works and Mario gets all upset, giving Floria exactly what she wants by professing his love over and over again to no avail and stoking her ego.  She leaves and he is unable to follow her, because this is when Angelotti’s earlier prank pays off.

Scarpia, the friendly police chief, bursts into the church looking for the guy who painted boxer shorts on that statue in front of town hall, and finds Mario sitting there looking like an idiot.  Mario takes off, worried that the police are after him and Scarpia has a good laugh about it with the priest, who is trying to clean up all the mess that Mario has left with his paints.  Floria comes back in and tells Scarpia about her hilarious joke, and that she was pretending to be jealous, which Scarpia thinks is a good prank and decides to take it to the next level.  He thinks that Floria should pretend to have an affair with him to make Mario jealous himself, although Floria is not so sure about this idea and runs off, leaving Scarpia in the church.  Having nothing else to do, he decides to join the choir and leads them all in a rousing rendition of the popular revival hymn “Te Deum.”

This brings us to Act 2, where we find Scarpia eating dinner.  Suddenly he gets another good idea for a joke to play on Mario, so he sends out his lieutenant Spoletta to pretend to arrest him.  Mario gets dragged in and Scarpia pretends to be mad at him about the statue, even though he knows it was really Angelotti.  Mario and Scarpia sing a comedic duet called “Never, Never,” in which Scarpia asks if Mario did a whole laundry lists of silly things, and Mario calls out “Never, never!” repeatedly.  After they sing, Scarpia decides to put Mario in a cell while he discusses the next prank with Floria.

Floria comes in and they agree that it would be hilarious to pretend to have Mario taken out to a firing squad, but put fake bullets in the guns, so when they fire them Mario will think he is being killed, but then they will both jump out and yell “Gotcha!”  This sounds funny to both of them, and Scarpia once more suggests his plan of sleeping with Floria in order to make Mario jealous.  A very funny scene then ensues in which he chases her around the dinner table being overly friendly, and she runs away from him singing her famous aria “Vissi d’arte,” singing about how she only lives for art, so Scarpia had better paint her something if he wants any action.

Things take a bit of a dark turn here when Floria grabs what she thinks is Scarpia’s joke knife and stabs him to death with it, but he seems okay with it and tells her to carry out the firing squad prank without him.  She goes to the top of the tower to watch the action, and we see a very confused and frightened Mario being blindfolded and pushed against a wall.  He is very concerned that he is about to die, and Floria decides that maybe this is not such a good prank after all, so she goes over to tell him that the bullets are fake.

Unfortunately, because he is blindfolded and flailing about, he whacks Floria with his elbow and knocks her right over the top of the tower to her death.  That’s when the firing squad fires, but it turns out they had accidentally put in real bullets and Mario slumps to the ground.  At this point Angelotti walks up wearing his wrestling outfit, wanting to brag about his spraypainting prank, and finds all of his friends dead.  He gets down on the ground and starts to sob, only to have Scarpia, Tosca, and Mario jump up and yell “Gotcha!” at him.  The knife, bullets, and fall had all been staged to teach Angelotti a lesson about playing mean jokes on people.  He admits the error of his ways and they all stand together smiling for three hours while Mario paints their picture.  This is a great way to end the show, because after a while everyone just gets bored and leaves.  Puccini was a comic genius.

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Posted in Humor, Opera, Tenor Tuesday, Tosca.

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